Many of us know that this is not necessarily a new thing; in fact, sugar has been a “no-go” or a “sometimes” food under most health professional’s recommendations for some time now. The latest research, however, is alerting many to the dangers of added sugars in foods. Whilst we avoided fat during the 80s and 90s we are now waking up to the fact that for flavours sake when fat was removed from many foods, sugar was added. This is alarming because we know the harmful role that sugar plays in tooth decay.
Why is sugar bad for teeth?
Essentially the bacteria that come together to become plaque use sugar as their form of energy. When they are energised by sugar they multiply faster and the plaque grows in both size and thickness, and they even use the sugar like sticky glue that helps them bind to the tooth surface. This doesn’t just sound yuck, but it also makes it much harder for both your saliva and toothbrush to wash away the plaque.
What does plaque actually do to teeth?
Your teeth have an outside covering called enamel; it is very hard and contains mineral salts like calcium. These mineral salts help your saliva make your teeth really hard and healthy, but unfortunately they are not so hard that they can stand up to acid.
The plaque that you don’t remove from your teeth, through brushing or via your mouths own saliva produces acid as it feeds on sugar. This acid is even harder to be removed because it lives inside the plaque and it works away at the enamel on teeth, eventually causing it to become porous which is when the tiny holes appear in teeth. As these holes get bigger they become what we know as cavities.
This is why it is important to attend the dentist to have your teeth properly cleaned and the plaque that you cannot remove yourself can be removed before the acid damages your teeth.
Should I quit sugar?
You don’t have to quit sugar entirely, although some would argue that this would be good for your health across the board.
You should aim, however, to limit the amount of sugar you consume and also make sure you are not drinking too many “diet” beverages because they too contain acid which cam harm your teeth. If you do enjoy sugar sweetened beverages then try to drink them using a straw to minimise the amount of contact your teeth has with the sugar. Remember, the sugar is simply feeding the plaque!
Limit sugary foods and drinks to a few times per week, focus on a diet which includes a wide range of foods, drink plenty of water and attend regular dental check-ups. If you suspect you have a cavity, or one of your teeth is painful, be sure to visit your dentist as soon as possible.